The blueprint of the Prince Albert Mintos has been drawn up and the architect is rookie head coach Ken Morrison.
After having served as an assistant coach for the past two years, Morrison moved into the lead role last spring when Tim Leonard resigned to take an assistant coaching position with the Western Hockey League‚Äôs Prince Albert Raiders.
Morrison has worked his way through eight pre-season games and now with the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League regular season opening this weekend, he has finalized his roster, with his stamp firmly in place.
Released earlier this week was defenseman Maxim Powiada, who played 21 games last year with the Mintos and had a goal and two helpers in four exhibition games this season.
‚ÄúIt was a tough decision,‚ÄĚ admits Morrison. ‚Äú(Eric) Young just worked his way on the team.‚ÄĚ
Young joins a defensive corp. that will be led by Jordan Harris, Zack Harms and Bryton Sayers with other newcomers including Ty Antoniuk and Lochlan Morrison.
That group will be relied upon heavily as the Mintos lose their seven top scorers from last season ‚Äď Brett Njaa, Matt Anholt, Michael Statchuk, Regan Wilton, Luc Lemire, Adam Fauchoux and Miles Warkentine. Morrison says a number of players will have to step up to fill the void.
‚ÄúWe are looking for an especially big season from both Durets (Ryan and Jason) along with (Adam) Osczevski, (Lance) Yaremchuk and (Cody) Young.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúJustin Boyer has a lot of skill and Kylar Hope looks real good,‚ÄĚ added Morrison. ‚ÄúThe younger guys will have to chip in here and there and find a role with the team.‚ÄĚ
Kody White is one of those young players and he, along with Lochlan Morrison, are just 15 years old and both have made Team Saskatchewan for the Western Canadian Challenge that will be held in Calgary in early November.
Hope is one of the bigger surprises during the pre-season as the 17-year-old from Lashburn had seven goals and five assists in just six games to trail just Osczevski in team scoring. Keegan Kjargaard, a 16-year-old who played last year with the Midget AA Liteway Electric Raiders, also had a strong exhibition season picking up two goals and seven helpers in eight pre-season tilts.
Other rookies up front include Teal Sobkowicz from Outlook, Joel Blaquiere from Edam and Zac Paziuk from Prince Albert. Paziuk brings some additional scoring punch as he was one of the leading scorers in Bantam AA last year while playing with the North East Wolf Pack.
In goal, the Mintos will rely heavily on Tanner Burgardt, but the 17-year-old is still recovering from an injury suffered while at the Regina Pats training camp. Lane Michasiw from Saskatoon has secured the other spot between the pipes.
Prince Albert enters their regular-season opener on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre against the Swift Current Legionnaires on a bit of a roll having won their last three pre-season games and Morrison says he thinks they are ready to take a third straight run at winning the provincial championship.
‚ÄúI think the closer we got to picking our team, we started to win some games,‚ÄĚ says Morrison, who will be assisted by Brad Bergen and Todd Becker behind the bench. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre going in the right direction.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúI‚Äôm happy with the work ethic and we have a pretty good dressing room again,‚ÄĚ added Morrison.